'Chicago Fire' Boss on Wedding Bells for Casey and Dawson, Severide's "Dilemma"

"It's a Chicago show, it's a heartland show, there's something sweet about them together," showrunner Matt Olmstead says of the decision to reunite Casey and Dawson.
Courtesy of Elizabeth Morris/NBC

Chicago Fire has never shied away from shaking up its core ensemble, but one of season four's forthcoming additions will truly change Casey (Jesse Spencer) and Dawson's (Monica Raymund) lives forever. That's because when the show returns Dawson is pregnant with the on-and-off couple's first child.

"Of course there's going to be conflicts, but just the idea of breaking them up and having them date other people full-on just felt like the center of the show was starting to dissipate a little bit," showrunner Matt Olmstead tells The Hollywood Reporter. "They're really the core of the show."

Olmstead also spoke with THR about Severide's (Taylor Kinney) "dilemma," his new romance and a "shakeup" at Firehouse 51.

The original NBC fall schedule delayed the return of Chicago Fire until November even though you have fairly regular crossovers between that and P.D. How much of a concern was that for you?

I don’t know a lot about scheduling. I don’t know a lot about budgets. I just stick to stories and scripts and let other people worry about that stuff, but scheduling does affect us and does affect me. Even with the crossovers, like we have one planned that looks like we're going to do in the first week of January, but that was going to be November then it floated. You're having writers on hold of when you're slotting people in so you can ride the wave a little bit but at a certain point, I need to know the dates. Because we're going to get jammed up if we don't. Luckily those dates have been locked in at this point. I think now that we know the dates, we've been able to schedule what episodes are going to happen where and what writers are going to do what. You definitely have to be light on your feet early on and then in case anything gets thrown your way, you can adjust to it.

The Fire finale introduced a huge curveball for the Dawson-Casey relationship. What was behind that decision? What can you say about their relationship going forward?

It's our most important relationship on the show. They've been together off and on since the beginning, and we hit the veritable fork in the road: Are they going to stay together? But what's left for a couple that's been through everything that they've been through? Are you thinking of marriage and grandkids and all that stuff? Or do you break them up and have them start fresh with other characters? We explored all avenues, but our feeling is  and it was definitely reinforced by testing  they love the characters as individuals and love the characters as a couple, so you know what? Let's go for it. There are certain things you can't come back from, but there are certain things that can complicate. We just didn't want an official breakup all of a sudden and now she's dating a lawyer and he's dating [someone else].

So let's just dig deeper into what couples go through, and so we wanted to do that and it just so happens when we committed to that, it dovetailed into what Casey was going through with the whole undercover aspect of what he was drawn into at the strip club. So we've paired those two storylines up of her wanting to tell him but realizing: a. I got to find him first and b. is he in the right mindset to even deal with this stuff? So there's a delay and her biting her lip, wanting to tell him but waiting for the right time. Ultimately when she does, it really comes at the right time for him because he went through some pretty traumatic stuff to survive the ordeal that he was in, and if not for Dawson and the news she gives him, he could probably start thinking about that too much. It's really a lifeline for him to pull him out from over-thinking what he went through.

What other relationships or possible relationships have you tested?

The network does it for every show probably twice a year and they give you the data in terms of storylines that work and characters, the whole thing. You can either use it to help reinforce an argument that you're making or you can just say they don’t know what the hell they're talking about. As it relates to Casey, there was a lot of internal conversation of, are we going to keep them together and just keep progressing them as a couple or free them up? And when the testing came back, it just validated our decision in terms of, you know what, they're good as a couple. It's a Chicago show, it's a heartland show, there's something sweet about them together.

How will the pregnancy affect them?

There's a lot of complications and drama to play in terms of, they weren't even a couple, really, and this news hits them. Then it's well, are you coming back with both feet because of the news or because you feel a certain way? What he went through makes him realize how special she is to him and how important she is to him. It affects her job because you can't be an active duty firefighter if you're pregnant so she has to move over to arson investigation. It's given us story engine really for the first six, seven episodes.

Are there wedding bells for them this year?

Anything is possible. Right now, we're dealing with immediate pregnancy and her job shift.

What can you say is coming up for the Severide character?

Speaking of conflict and drama, we were just looking at the mythology of the show and bringing in a potentially new character and we bring a new character in Brian White, who is playing the lieutenant. What's going on is there's a new chief above Boden who's now auditing all of the firehouses, which is what happens when there's a power shift, and he brings Boden and Severide in and says, basically, "I'm going through the lists. You've rotated through six different people on squad. We're not questioning you as a firefighter. We're questioning you as basically a leader of men and you're getting demoted from lieutenant. So you have to step down, here comes your new boss, Brian White's character, who's going to run squad. You got to move over a seat, so either you can do that if you prove that you want to do that or you can just go to another house." So he [thinks], being prideful, 'Do I eat this in front of everybody? And work my way back? And maybe is there a kernel of truth to what they said about me? Am I too aloof with my guys and I did pick the wrong guys? Or do I just simply say I want to go to another house and start fresh and not deal with this everyday?' That's his dilemma going forward with the Brian White character in terms of working under somebody and the embarrassment of being demoted. How bad do I want it to work my way back?

Is there a love interest coming up for him?

Part of this whole disciplinary action goes against him is that he has to go through what he thinks is a ridiculous requirement of a seminar for troubled managers. His eyes are rolling into the back of his head, but you look over there and the actress is Rachel Nichols, who plays an attorney who was in trouble at her place, so here's a romance when they're basically in detention like The Breakfast Club, essentially.

What are the other big dynamic shifts in the house coming up?

Cruz has moved over from truck to squad, which shakes things up in particular with Otis, who feels like he's left in the dust. Even though he just moved a little bit over from one table to another table, there are ramifications of going from truck to squad. Dawson moving out to arson leaves an opening and we bring in a new character, Steven R. McQueen plays the new candidate, so new storytelling with him coming in. He's a great new character. Having seen the first episode, this kid is going to be a superstar. But primarily, it's the Severide demotion and dealing with a new character coming in, who actually proves to be a really good manager, he proves to be a good firefighter. He's a good guy. He's coming into a thankless position because everybody's looking at him like, you're the one who bumped Severide. He has a pre-existing friendship with Boden, which Severide finds out about. It really creates a triangle with Boden and White's character, Patterson, but Patterson's the guy who makes no bones about it. He's looking to be a commissioner one day. Not by stepping on people's backs to get there, but by playing it right and having goals and dreams. There's a nice little shakeup.

Chicago Fire airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on NBC. Are you glad Casey and Dawson are finally together for good?

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